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Lawmakers favor more campaign cash, tougher rules for ballot measures

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State senators voted Monday to let special interests give candidates more cash, even as they threw another roadblock in the path of voters wanting to enact their own laws.

HB2415 would permit individuals to give up to $5,000 to those running for the Legislature or any statewide office. That is $1,000 more than currently allowed.

The preliminary approval came over the objections of Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, who noted the legislation is more than just a 25 percent increase since the last election.

He pointed out it comes just two years after lawmakers approved a tenfold increase in donations for legislative candidates. Until then, the maximum donation from any one source was just $440, though statewide candidates could take up to $912.

Monday’s vote is just one of several efforts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to change election rules.

In a separate action, the Senate voted to require judges to kill any voter-proposed ballot measures if they do not strictly comply with the law. The same would be true for recalls.

That is a major departure from existing law which says that those crafting initiatives and circulating petitions need only “substantial” compliance. That has allowed the public to vote on proposals even after courts have found various technical problems, ranging from signers putting incorrect dates on the petitions to differences in versions between the printed version of a measure and the electronic copy filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Quezada complained that it’s already difficult to put measures before voters.

It takes 150,642 valid signatures to propose a change in state statutes; constitutional amendments need petitions with 225,963 names.

Recalls are based on the number of voters in a particular legislative district; for a statewide recall backers must collect close to 113,000 signatures.

Quezada said the change proposed by HB2407 only adds to that burden.

“It allows for a judge to throw these measures out based purely on technical reasons,” he said.

“That’s not the way we should be dealing with these things,” Quezada said, saying it overturns a history of judicial rulings that “err on the side of voters” to put something on the ballot.

None of the supporters of HB2415, the legislation to boost contributions limits, spoke on why that 25 percent increase is necessary now, just two years after the last massive increase. That left Quezada to argue, with no one in particular, why he believes the measure makes no sense.

“Where’s that money going to come from?” he asked.

“It’s coming from lobbyists, it’s coming from special interests,” Quezada said. “My constituents can’t afford to donate in these amounts.”

This is not the end of measures being pushed by Republicans to change the rules for elections.

Still awaiting final legislative action are measures to:

– Make it harder for third parties to get their nominees on the ballot;

– Bar groups from picking up early ballots and taking them to the polls;

– Strip the Citizens Clean Elections Commission of its ability to police the spending of candidates who do not take public funds;

– Ask voters to kill the entire Citizens Clean Elections Act and the optional system of public financing that goes with it.

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